Northern Irish finance minister asks department to draft legislation for equal marriage
The finance minister in Northern Ireland has asked officials to draft a bill to legalise same-sex marriage there.
Máirtín Ó Muilleoir responded to a written question from Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson, asking when Northern Ireland would introduce same-sex marriage.
Ó Muilleoir responded to say he wants the Northern Irish Assembly to vote on legislation on the issue very soon.
He did go further, however; to admit that there is “a little way to go” in securing support from remaining MLAs.
But the finance minister said he was confident that the legislation could be passed succesfully this assembly term.
He said he thought MLAs would be more likely to choose to vote on same-sex marriage than “be forced to legislate on foot of an adverse judgment” from a court.
Asking his department to “do the groundwork now”, and work with other departments, the minister said he hoped that it would mean his department is “able to move swiftly towards introduction” once it passes.
Northern Ireland remains the only part of the UK where it is not legal for same-sex couples to marry.
The Northern Irish Assembly backed equal marriage by a vote of 53 to 51 last year – but the DUP used peace process powers to override the democratic process and block equality for a fifth time.
The party has been accused of “abusing” petitions of concern, which were introduced to encourage power-sharing and cross-community support, to ‘veto’ marriage legislation despite clear majority support.
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In its new manifesto released earlier this year, the DUP pledged to continue blocking same-sex marriage.
The campaign’s organisers have said they will keep on going until same-sex marriage is legalised in Northern Ireland.
The Isle of Man has finally approved same-sex marriage this week – meaning Northern Ireland is set to be the last place in the Isles without marriage equality.
As a crown dependency, the Isle of Man maintains autonomy from the UK on issues including marriage.
It was the last part of these islands to legalise homosexuality in 1992 – but a vote this week confirmed it won’t be the last to introduce same-sex marriage.